As residents of arguably the greatest nation for business opportunities, it is easy to believe “if you build it they will come”. However, there are several problems with that axiom; most notably, all of the activities that come with building a sustainable business. While there are many factors in the development and day-to-day operation of your business, the three most critical are marketing, social media management, and business development.
If you built it and are waiting for them to come, you are already in trouble. Before you opened your doors you should have had a very clear picture of your target audience, their values and preferences, and how you were going to change their current habits into those that involve purchasing your products/services. Having this information would have made your marketing more effective and lowered the overall expense of customer acquisition.
I know you’re going to say that your product/service can be purchased by anyone, right?
By not having a clear understanding of who is most likely to purchase your product/service you run the risk of making mistakes in packaging, messaging, and delivery systems. Not to mention whether there is a large enough market to achieve your revenue goals. The purpose of marketing is to let potential customers know you have the solution to their problem, but if you don’t know who they are and what their problems are how effective will your marketing be?
Social Media Management
Social conversation has forever changed how consumers find, purchase, and build loyalty to brands. A superior product/service with a bad reputation will have a very difficult time sustaining growth and increasing market share. More than 50% of your growth, or lack thereof, can occur through social conversations on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), opinion pages (Trip Advisor, Yelp, Angie’s List), or blogs (Reddit, Diggit Blogspot, etc.). If you or a member of your team is not constantly monitoring social conversation concerning your company, products/services, and customer service, then it is time to get with the program. Let me give you an example of how I search for a product to fulfill a need.
If it is a product/service that I have never used before or have not developed a brand opinion about, I will search on Google with generic terms like “best widget in Central Florida”. Once I have the list I read reviews to see if there is a general consensus on who delivers the highest quality service. After that is determined, I do another Google search with the words “Company A sucks”. This is so I can see if there are rants, BBB complaints, legal actions, or product deficiencies. Once that question has been answered I do another search using the product/service identifier, to get the best price out there and contact Company A to negotiate a purchase. In my example, you can easily see how companies are eliminated and how Company A having a satisfactory social identity is crucial in them getting my business.
Business development is an all-inclusive term that refers to all of the practices and processes that take your company from startup through the rest of your business cycle. Processes such as developing your core competencies, strategic planning, product/service evaluation, inventory management, human resources, and customer retention strategies are the foundation on which your company’s future success is built. The executive team should be well versed in adaptive leadership and change management as trends emerge, competitors enter your space, or changes in consumer values and preferences occur.
I’m a one man/woman show so these things don’t apply to me!
Believe it or not for micro businesses (under 10 employees) these factors are more critical. With limited resources and/or personnel, you have to make sure your efforts are effective because you can’t get back the time it took to execute and if your strategy missed it mark, you have to compensate for the resources spent.
In closing I want to emphasize that running a successful because requires you to be a visionary, innovator, manager, operations director, marketing guru, social media maven, and business development leader. Sound impossible? Well, it is by yourself!
The purpose of this conversation is to convince you of the fact you need help, whether a mentor who has reached the level of success you aspire to, a partner with skills that fill in the gaps in your knowledge, organizations such as the SBA, SBDC, Chamber of Commerce, or SCORE, or dare I say a business strategist (hint, hint). Don’t wait until you hit the wall to seek guidance, be proactive and become one of the success stories I teach my students about in the future.